Kansas v Garcia decided this morning (Supreme Court rejects preemption by implication)

One decision by the Supreme Court this morning in Kansas v Garcia.

ALITO, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which GORSUCH, J., joined. BREYER, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.

I concur both with the Opinion of the Court and the separate Thomas concurrence. I reject the “preemption by implication” doctrine. I concur with the majority that State statutes are only preempted if either they expressly conflict with Federal statutes or if the Federal statute EXPLICITLY preempts any State statute.

The relevant portion of the syllabus from the link above.

  1. Respondents’ argument that Kansas’s laws are preempted by implication is also rejected. Pp. 15–20.

(a) The laws do not fall into a field that is implicitly reserved exclusively for federal regulation, including respondents’ claimed field of “fraud on the federal verification system.” The submission of tax withholding forms is neither part of, nor “related” to, the verification system. Employees may complete their W–4’s, K–4’s, and I–9’s at roughly the same time, but IRCA plainly does not foreclose all state regulation of information required as a precondition of employment. In arguing that the State’s statutes require proof that the accused engaged in the prohibited conduct for the purpose of getting a “benefit,” respondents conflate the benefit that results from complying with the federal employment verification system with the benefit of actually getting a job. Submitting W–4’s and K–4’s helped respondents get jobs, but it did not assist them in showing that they were authorized to work in this country. Federal law does not create a comprehensive and unified system regarding the information that a State may require employees to provide. Pp. 15–17.

(b) There is likewise no ground for holding that the Kansas statutes at issue conflict with federal law. It is certainly possible to comply with both IRCA and the Kansas statutes, and respondents do not suggest otherwise. They instead maintain that the Kansas statutes, as applied in their prosecutions, stand as “an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes” of IRCA—one of which is purportedly that the initiation of any legal action against an unauthorized alien for using a false identity in applying for employment should rest exclusively within the prosecutorial discretion of federal authorities. Respondents analogize their case to Arizona v. United States, 567 U. S., at 404–407, where the Court concluded that a state law making it a crime for an unauthorized alien to obtain employment conflicted with IRCA, which does not criminalize that conduct. But here, Congress made no decision that an unauthorized alien who uses a false identity on tax-withholding forms should not face criminal prosecution, and it has made using fraudulent information on a W–4 a federal crime. Moreover, in the present cases, there is certainly no suggestion that the Kansas prosecutions frustrated any federal interests. Federal authorities played a role in all three cases, and the Federal Government fully supports Kansas’s position in this Court. In the end, however, the possibility that federal enforcement priorities might be upset is not enough to provide a basis for preemption. The Supremacy Clause gives priority to “the Laws of the United States,” not the criminal law enforcement priorities or preferences of federal officers. Art. VI, cl. 2. Pp. 18–20.

How about a dumbed down, tl:dr version.

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As an additional note, all 9 Justices agreed that the Kansas statute is NOT expressly preempted.

The disagreement was solely on the doctrine of implied preemption.


Basically, any State law that is not EXPRESSLY preempted by a Federal statute is acceptable. The Supreme Court merely rejected the doctrine of IMPLIED preemption.

Ironically, the quote I gave in the OP is the dumbed down version from syllabus. Not from Alito’s actual Opinion which goes into the subject at length.


Your welcome.


OK, now it makes more sense.

Thanks for the thread Safiel.


“A divided Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that illegal immigrants who use someone else’s information when filling out tax forms for employment can face criminal charges, despite federal laws that liberal justices claim should prohibit such cases.”

Excellent news!

One has to wonder why there would be any division on this.

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We need another Conservative-leaning judge on the court, since they’re all activists anyway.

There is a doctrine of implied preemption, so to be fair, the liberal justices are not pulling stuff out of thin air.

However, there is a longstanding conflict on the issue and the conservatives seem ready, correctly, to end the doctrine of implied preemption.

I was more interested in the underlying doctrine, than the case at hand (i.e. identity theft).

So, a State vs. a Federal power struggle :wink: